Jeff Adams Qualifies! … And a Story Incomplete

by Rant on June 26, 2008 · 11 comments

in Doping in Sports, Jeff Adams

Jeff Adams Qualifies for Beijing — By Just .02 Seconds

Atlanta (June 26, 2008) In a meet he aptly called ‘The Last Gasp,’ Jeff Adams posted times that met the qualification standards he needed to achieve in order to be nominated for the 1500m Paralympic wheelchair race by Athletics Canada. Adams had five days before the deadline to meet or beat the qualification times, otherwise, he would not have been able to compete for Canada at the Beijing Games later this year.

“It was totally the eleventh hour, but I was able to do an elite time and an ‘A’ standard time, which puts me in great shape,”Adams said in a statement issued today. The first race of the night I went 3:00.27, which is the third fastest time in the world this year. We might have been a bit too enthusiastic, because on the next attempt, I was only able to go 3:03.98, which is only .02 seconds under what I needed to do.”

Several other wheelchair athletes assisted Adams in making the cut. Adams organized and sanctioned the meet himself, with the help of Scot Hollonbeck of Vie Sports Marketing. Ernst VanDyk of South Africa and Josh Cassidy, a fellow Canadian athlete, paced Adams as he attempted to qualify for the Paralympic Games.

“It was a really amazing night for a lot of reasons. Scot and I have had some epic battles over the years, the best one right here in Atlanta at the Paralympics in 1996, and we warmed up on this very track. To come back here and work together to try to get me on the team was really rewarding,” Adams said. “The fact that Ernst and Josh came down to help pace me really shows how the athletes are reacting to the stuff I’ve been going through over the last two years. For competitors of mine to help me makes an enormous statement about their character, and is an amazing comment about the way Paralympic athletes see competition. Neither Ernst or Josh wanted to try to win a medal without all of the best athletes there”.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport recently exonerated Adams on anti-doping allegations, after he fought for nearly two years to clear his name. He was reinstated on May 16th, leaving him only six weeks to qualify for Beijing. In contrast, other Canadian athletes have had two years to chalk up the results needed to make the country’s Paralympic team.

Adams won the 1500m at the US Paralympic Trials in Tempe, Arizona, which were also open to foreign athletes just 10 days ago. He will compete next at the Canadian Championships July 3-6th in Windsor, Ontario.

———-

After two years away from competition, it’s heartening to see that Jeff Adams can come back and compete at the highest level. Best of luck to him in Beijing. I’d love to be there in the stands come September, cheering him on. Realistically, I’ll settle for watching his race on TV.

And Now for the Rest of the Story

Today’s editions of The New York Times and the International Herald Tribune feature a story by Gina Kolata which talks about new research into the urine EPO test and it’s reliability. In a nutshell, Danish researchers working on a different (but related) project decided to see just how well a couple of WADA-accredited labs could detect the use of EPO by some volunteers. In this case, the volunteers were using EPO on a schedule established by the researchers. Urine samples were taken at regular intervals throughout the study, covering times when the voluteers were building up extra blood cells, maintaining, and then after stopping EPO use entirely.

The results of the WADA-accredited labs’ testing was less than comforting. In fact, the study shows that the labs’ test results did not agree on who was doping and when. And, it also showed at least one false positive — a person who tested positive, but who had not used EPO within the range of time that the test is supposed to be accurate (claimed to be three days by WADA-world, though I’ve heard it’s actually less).

Olivier Rabin, the medical director of WADA, stood up for the labs.

But Olivier Rabin, scientific director of the World Anti-Doping Agency, said his group had tested its labs, sending samples of urine from people who were taking EPO and from people who were not. In general, he said, the labs agreed. But Rabin added that when the agency sends samples to its labs, they are not sent anonymously — the lab knows the samples are from WADA.

The agency does not share data from the tests on its labs, so it was not possible to determine how the organization’s research compared with the latest study.

It’s pretty easy to understand how the labs would do well when WADA’s test samples came calling. In fact, it’s pretty simple. They know they’re being tested, so they’re on their best behavior. There’s a powerful incentive to get things right. On the other hand, the Danish researchers’ samples weren’t identified as to what they contained, so the labs had no idea that they were being evaluated on their performance.

The anti-doping tests came in for some criticism.

The findings in the latest study should be no surprise, said Charles Yesalis, a professor of sports science at Pennsylvania State University. For decades, he said, anti-doping authorities have claimed they have tests that work and for decades athletes have been taking drugs without getting caught.

The anti-doping authorities, he said, “remind me of little boys whistling in the graveyard.”

Hard to argue with that statement. There’s something missing from Kolata’s story, and it’s absence casts the story in a completely different light. Reading her piece, if you’re not familiar with anti-doping testing, you’d think, “Well, looks like they won’t be able to catch cheats using EPO. The test doesn’t work.” And it would be hard to blame someone for thinking that.

But there are other testing protocols that can detect the use of EPO (or other blood doping techniques). Those are the blood-based ON- and OFF-Model tests developed by Australian researchers at the beginning of the decade. And, not coincidentally, the theory behind those tests is the granddaddy of the current biological passport programs, and other anti-doping testing programs. So, it is possible to catch those who might be bent on blood doping, via hormones or the old-fashioned way. But the urine EPO test is tricky and problematic. And that’s something which has been known for quite some time.

But looking at the news coverage of this latest study, you’d never know that there was another way to detect EPO use. And that’s a shame, because in presenting the story, a crucial part has been left out. How it came to be left out of Gina Kolata’s story, I don’t know. She might have had the information in there, only to be cut by a copyeditor. Or, she might not have had the information there at all. Hard to say. But it’s a shame that the blood tests for EPO use were left out. Because if they’d been included, the story would be that one type of test doesn’t work, but those who would cheat can still be caught by another test.

Different presentations. Different meanings. Same overall story. That’s why it’s important that reporters be sure they’ve covered the whole of the story, and not just the obvious part.

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William Schart June 27, 2008 at 6:33 am

If the labs are making largely correct determinations with the WADA samples, but are totally blowing the unknown Danish samples, this suggests (as Rant apparently does above) that the problem is not the test itself, but rather the labs’ care in which they conduct the tests. The other possibility is that WADA is lying about the results obtained when they submit samples to review the labs work.

This would lead to some questions about WADA itself. If the test per se is good and it is merely the labs’ faulty work at issue with regards to the Danish samples, I can understand WADA taking a public stand backing up the labs. However, I would hope that WADA would have enough honesty to privately tell the labs they need to get into shape. But if WADA it lying and it knows that either the test itself, or many labs’ implementation is faulty and leading to many false negatives, this would bring into question their basic motivations. Do they think that running a meaningless test which allows many cheaters potentially to go undetected (and perhaps also some false positives, condemning innocent athletes) is somehow a deterrent?

Luc June 27, 2008 at 7:51 am

Hi Rant,
What I read into the article is that if the labs know they are to be tested (as in the WADA samples) they will look until they find something. So maybe if they know that there is a high profile athlete’s samples coming in they will look till they think they have found something. Or perhaps skew the results to suit their needs.
Congrats on the book and congrats to Jeff Adams.

bitch slap me back! June 27, 2008 at 10:05 am

Ahh press time!!

http://www.velonews.com/article/78938/floyd-landis-cas-decision-expected-monday

And I thought they would wait until Venzuela invaded Columbia setting off the “War of the Latin Americas” so the CAS announcement could get buried on the bottom of page 9. Or at least take a page from the Bushco handbook and release late Friday afternoon! This would be the case, (my prediction if Landis is guilty).

But instead front and center Monday morning: I predict exoneration.

Thomas A. Fine June 27, 2008 at 11:53 am

Congratulations Jello!

So, somebody should compile a list of all the drug tests which have failed the test. Like T/E, EPO, nandrolone, and (in my opinion) the carbon isotope T test.

Similarly, there should be a list of athletes nailed by faulty testing (which should be right next to a list that were nailed by strict liability). Unfortunately, the majority of those cases are probably still counted as legitimate anti-doping victories.

tom

snake June 27, 2008 at 12:04 pm

my my, what timing.

is rant now yelling “STOP THE PRESSES ! i have an afterword to rewrite” ?

I have enjoyed reading about Jellotrip’s triumphs, but it was Floyd who brought me here … for a YEAR. It’s hard to believe it’s almost over. I hope it goes as well for him as it’s going for Jeff.

Rant June 27, 2008 at 1:44 pm

Snake,
The Afterword is online. So I don’t have to stop the presses. I just need to update the section on Floyd’s case. Which I’m going to try to do ASAP, once the verdict is announced.
BSMB,
Thanks for the link. Figures I’d be in a meeting when that transpired.
Luc,
When a lab knows it’s being tested, the staff are extra careful in their procedures. They know something is there, so they follow everything by the book. I can tell you this based on friends who work in similar types of labs in the US, and who get tested from time to time. That WADA labs would do the same is pretty much to be expected. What’s not to be expected is the degree of difference between when WADA sends out their tests, and when they get “regular” samples. That says a lot for the reliability of the tests, and possibly the labs, as well.

Larry June 27, 2008 at 4:34 pm

Snake –

I doubt highly that anything will be “over” on Monday. If Landis wins, all hell will break loose. If he loses, I expect that he and his legal team will head for U.S. federal court.

My personal opinion is that initially, the Landis team never thought anything would come out of an appeal to CAS. But to get into federal court, Landis has to show that he has exhausted the remedies available to him in arbitration, and in order to make this showing, Landis had to go through the CAS process.

My own guess at this moment is that the Landis team DOES hold out some hope (probably faint) that the CAS might actually overturn the AAF. The impression I have is that the Landis team was relatively pleased with the make-up of the CAS panel, and that their argument before the CAS went better than expected. Without having any reason to know, I think that some of the newer pro-Landis arguments made here and on TBV (in particular, the “column switch” on the GC machine) were also made by the Landis team before the CAS, and had some impact. I don’t “make book” on legal cases, but I also hold some faint hope for this decision. I figure that there’s maybe a 5% chance that the decision will be favorable to Landis, and that’s a much better chance than I would have given his appeal 6 months ago.

I see a better chance – maybe 10% – 20% – that the panel will uphold the AAF, but throw a bone in Landis’ direction. The most obvious thing the CAS could do would be to uphold the 2-year ban, but change the start date of the ban to the date of the conclusion of the 2006 Tour de France. This would shorten the existing ban by a few months. It wouldn’t do much practically for Floyd Landis, but might signal some small amount of sympathy for his case.

Still … I expect that the AAF will be upheld in its entirety, and that Floyd’s case will be in U.S. Federal Court within a few week’s time.

William Schart June 27, 2008 at 7:26 pm

Larry:

What could Landis do in Federal Courts? WADA, UCI, CAS, ASO, etc. are foreign entities, hence I would think outside of US jurisdiction. He could always take USADA to court, maybe even get cleared to race in the US, but if WADA/UCI says he is banned elsewhere, US courts don’t have any say over that.

Of course, if he has written off his international career, a US only re-instatement might be his goal. Or he might simply look for some financial relief: “I was screwed over by USADA, lost my winnings and 2 years wages, spent all these millions defending myself because of them. They were wrong, now they owe me.”

A financial/moral victory may be his goal, if he does go that route. But I don’t see any chance at all for more than that.

Rant June 27, 2008 at 7:37 pm

William,
True, but USADA is a US organization, and they’ve been the prosecutor in the case, even if the others have also damaged Floyd’s reputation. Remember, too, that Maurice Suh’s firm is an international firm, and they could file suit in various locations against various entities. So, for instance, a lawsuit in France against LNDD/AFLD for leaking information that was damaging. A lawsuit against L’Equipe for libel. Suits in Switzerland against WADA and the UCI for various reasons. This is all speculation on my part, but it could get very complicated and messy. I’d guess that a lawsuit against USADA in Federal court would have the most chances of going anywhere.
Monday’s news will give us a better idea of what happens next.

Matt June 28, 2008 at 8:21 am

Nice summarization of the situation (as always) Rant! Thats why I come here. I hadn’t really thought about the possiblity of Floyd taking this to Federal court…interesting (yet how very sad, that it should come to this). I still have my rose colored glasses on, and I’m really hoping for a verdict in Floyds favor for many reasons. First and foremost, I believe he is innocent of the charges. Next, I would LOVE to see the mayhem that would be created by a decision in his favor at the various entities that would all have egg on their collective faces.

Another great post, thanks!

Larry June 28, 2008 at 11:42 am

William –

One thing Landis could try to do is to have a federal court overturn last year’s arbitration decision in favor of USADA. If Landis loses before the CAS, this is the next logical step. (It would probably be difficult for Landis to sue USADA for loss of reputation when the last word on the subject is the CAS opinion confirming that Landis doped.)

Getting a court to overturn an arbitration decision is notoriously difficult. The general rule is that a court will not review the merits of an arbitration decision — the courts won’t question the reasoning of the arbitrators, or whether the arbitrators applied the law correctly, or even whether the arbitrators applied the correct law. The arbitration decision may be wrong, obviously wrong, but the courts will let the decision stand. There have been cases when the courts refused to review an arbitration decision even where the arbitrator admitted to committing an error.

Under Federal law, a court can overturn an arbitration award (1) if the award was procured by corruption, fraud or undue means, (2) where there was evident partiality or corruption on the part of the arbitrators, (3) where the arbitrators were guilty of misconduct in refusing to postpone the hearing upon sufficient grounds shown, or in refusing to hear evidence pertinent to the controversy, or of any other misbehavior by which the rights of any party have been prejudiced, or (4) where the arbitrators exceeded their powers, or so imperfectly executed them that a mutual, final and definite award on the subject matter submitted was not made.

The grounds for overturning an arbitration may sound a lot broader to you than they really are. To overturn an arbitration in federal court, a party has to prove very unusual circumstances, and all doubts as to the validity of the arbitration will be resolved in favor of the arbitration. These challenges almost never work.

Notwithstanding the difficulty, I believe that Landis and his team WILL try to overturn the arbitration in federal court, assuming that Landis loses before the CAS.

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